Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency was exactly what I needed in this race to the finish for the 2008 election. I am inundated daily by campaign ads on TV, radio, flyers, and more. (We live only a few miles from a battleground state). While I am heavily invested in the race, I am sick and tired of the negative ads. I have been trying to stay away from politics on this blog, but picture books are partisan enough. And I really enjoyed this one!
Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency is the story of Belva Lockwood, an woman well ahead of her time who ran for president twice, in 1884 and 1888. In this picture book biography I learned that Lockwood was married, a mother, a widow, a college graduate, a teacher, and a suffragette. In the midst of all this, at the age of 39, she decided she wanted to become a lawyer, but no law school would admit her. In true independent spirit, she “moved a mountain” and got her law degree.
But what the book really focuses on is Belva’s nomination at the Women’s National Equal-Rights Convention for President of the United States. The campaign was not easy for her. Most newspapers referred to her campaign as “the most laughable masquerade… ever witnessed.” Most women did not support her! In fact, the National Woman’s Suffrage Association did not support her. But Belva continued traveling across the United States promoting her message of equal rights for all people, regardless of their gender.
I loved this book! I think it’s a story that very few children or adults will be familiar with, but it is one that we should all know. Belva’s campaign is inspirational and a great conversation starter with kids. In fact, I plan to read the book to my students this Tuesday as part of our Election Day activities. Bardhan-Quallen includes a wonderful author’s note and glossary, along with a timeline of important date’s in women’s rights. In class, we will be using the context clues in the book to define unfamiliar vocabulary (related to the election) in the book, and then checking our answers against the glossary.
While this is an especially timely book during this election season, I think this would also fit in well during Women’s History Month (when I plan to use it again). Our students need to know that there are amazing women besides Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks out there! (Any teacher knows that these are the only famous women chosen for Women’s History projects, year in and year out!). Hopefully, Belva will introduce students and teachers to a new heroine!